|COUP D'ETAT: South Korea's Park Chung Hee|
By Jone Baledrokadroka
What are the pitfalls for the next phase of Fiji's Constitution making process and the Constituent Assembly?
In October, nearing the conclusion of the Constitution Commissions sittings, Fiji’s first coup maker Sitiveni Rabuka
when queried as to whether there would be elections in 2014 quipped that he “hoped the elections would go ahead, but that that hope is not based on very good grounds.”
Rabuka’s lack of faith in Bainimarama’s promise of elections is probably based on his own realist experiences. A large body of literature on the problems of military disengagement from politics share Rabuka’s Machiavellian view that man finds it difficult if not impossible to relinquish power. Samuel Finer gave three major reasons why disengagement efforts generally stall. These are:
a) The danger that political opponents of the regime may come to power, which may mean persecution for the outgoing military personnel back in barracks and their regime backers.
b) The possibility that policies enunciated under military rule may be reversed.
c) The fear that the privileges enjoyed by the military may not be maintained by the succeeding democratic government.
According to L.O. Dare the following additional factors may be relevant:
d) Political pressure from anti-disengagement forces and beneficiaries of authoritarian rule, who urge the military to stay in power.
e) An exaggerated self-image held by the military as a result of which they reason that the disciplined forces are the best agencies for governing and other groups will not do so well.
f) The fear that political chaos will follow the departure of the military from power.
g) Mere lust for power and the attractiveness of the prerequisites of political power.
Ironically, according to Danopoulos, the most important step toward military withdrawal from politics may be active leadership of a political party built from below rather than imposed from above.
As witnessed, the Bainimarama regime has been playing politics all along in adopting the role of modernizer, social developer and political organizer in a strong effort to build a sense of national identity (i.e Fijian as a common name).
Huntington also submitted that disengagement could come about only if the military were to “make their way through politics”. Deeper engagement paradoxically may be requisite for disengagement he suggests. This was to be accomplished by the creation of a new political party.
As in South Korea in the 1960s this eventuated with the formation of the Democratic Republican Party which was highly structured along a hierarchical, single command system and its members carefully chosen, trained and disciplined. The party was to be led by new elite made up of government officials and civil professionals dedicated to the ideas of the military regime. The military also succeeded in the co-opting technocrats and civilian beauracrats.
As it is Bainimarama’s regime is neither to be convinced of the inappropriateness of its political and developmental roles nor to resurrect the SDL or FLP from the “dead”. In purportedly trying to restore civilian rule the most worrisome and nagging questions for the regime leaders seem to have been what would happen to them when they returned to the barracks and who would carry out their missions in a civilian government.
These concerns finally led to the regime leaders in South Korea to create their own civilian government which led to economic growth whilst the military provided security and stability.
Another way forward is that a coalition arrangement between the military regime and civilian political forces could be politically negotiated in the coming months. This is provided the military regime finds an acceptable alternative to the present political parties. The make-up of the Constituent Assembly shall certainly give us a clue.
Jone Baledrokadroka is a former land force commander in Fiji and a PhD candidate at State, Society and Governance in Melanesia programme in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.